The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders 4-2.
The Lightning were down twice in this game before going ahead to win it. This was something they were unable to do two games ago against the Detroit Red Wings. A team decimated by injuries, one that they could’ve won, and they let that game slip away 3-0.
You could say that the team was on an emotional high from their previous win in St. Louis – this was first time that Bolts have won back to back games in regulation this season, I might add. You could also say that it was the benching of Jeff Halpern and Alex Tanguay that gave them that spark – except that they both played in that game in Detroit.
I think that it’s been a combination of Vincent Lecavalier being a little cranky and finally converting on some scoring chances but also Halpern playing with a mouth full of smashed teeth. This is the grit that Rick Tocchet has been trying to instill in his players. This is about being angry and doing something about it.
Not a single Lightning player played well for the entire game, except for perhaps Tanguay. Everyone had their good and bad moments - and there was lot more bad than good, frankly - but it was enough to get them over the hump and into the win column. Winning doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to happen.
Lecavalier did not have his best game. He did score, but he was horrible at faceoffs on the night. Not only that, he had a couple of unfortunate turnovers that thankfully didn't lead to anything. Luckily, he didn’t end up in the penalty box, as did so many other teammates of his during the game. All can be forgiven if Vinny scores, though, right? At least, that’s the common perception.
Vinny, by the way, now has nine goals on the season while Martin St. Louis has seven – though Marty does have 33 assists while Vinny only has 24.
Which leads us to another Lightning goal scorer, Steven Stamkos. He’s the golden boy because of his 21 goals on the season. But he’s really turning into a one-dimensional player. Defense is not his strong suit, and since he jammed his wrist in practice over a month ago, he’s been awful at faceoffs. So it’s good that he can score goals, since that seems to be all he’s able to do right now.
The man of the game was Ryan Malone. He scored two goals and assisted on the other two. Malone has been a very pleasant surprise this season. Sure, he has 18 goals, but he’s also leading the team in hits, and isn’t afraid to camp out in the slot area and the crease to chip in some ugly goals. Without Malone, this team wouldn’t be in the race for a playoffs spot. You could argue the same for Stamkos, but Malone brings a lot more to the team right now than just potting goals.
Tanguay, I felt, had a great game. He was shooting and making passes. All in all, I believe that that was probably one of his best games of the season. He had five shots on goal in this game - the most of any Lightning player on the ice - and his one assist on Lecavalier's goal gave him his 600-point milestone. Sure, he didn't score, but there's a lot more to hockey than scoring goals.
The puzzling part of this game was that Zenon Konopka was sat out due to some minor injuries. Tocchet doesn’t want him to play banged up, is the official explanation. But what I wonder is this: Why does Konopka get to sit out, but they’re good with playing Stamkos with a bum wrist? A wrist, I might add, that needed to have x-rays taken on it after a slash a few games ago. Not to mention Victor Hedman with a bruised foot, who was only sat out a game or two. Why does Konopka get a night off to heal while Stamkos and Hedman don’t?
The next game is at home against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, 23 December. Game time is 7:30 pm Eastern. If you’re going, don’t forget a Santa hat – it’s Christmas Eve Eve, after all.
Lightning vs Islanders coverage [SB Nation]
Lighthouse Hockey [SB Nation New York Islanders site]
Lightning vs Islanders boxscore [TSN]